A Newtownabbey teacher has called for government guidelines on recommended consumption levels of caffeine for children.
Leigh Cooper from Ballyclare, an officer with the Ulster Teachers’ Union, was commenting following the publication of a US health report into the potential side effects of energy drinks.
“Although anecdotally, teachers have long known the correlation between caffeine energy drinks and negative behaviour in the classroom, unlike other countries there’s no official data,” she said.
“We need independent research into the long-term health impact of energy drinks. Our Ministers need to look at this issue in the same way Westminster has addressed sugary drinks, on which it subsequently imposed a sugar tax to address obesity.”
The new report from the US reveals that consuming the high-caffeine beverages can raise the risk for an abnormal heart rhythm and increase blood pressure.
“A recent European study found that nearly one in five children who have tried energy drinks think their caffeine content is the same as cola,” Ms Cooper continued. “A 500ml bottle of cola has almost 40mg of caffeine whereas the same amount of an energy drink has around 160mg of caffeine.
“It is important that we as a society – children, parents, teachers, retailers etc – appreciate what youngsters are consuming.
“Too often we see energy drinks affecting performance at school and leading to risky behaviour. What we need is independent research into the long-term health impact of energy drinks.
“This way the government could publish evidence-based guidelines on the maximum amount of caffeine it’s safe for children to drink. We could all then make an informed decision on what to buy,” she added.